Latitude Zero – Straddling the Equator in Ecuador

13 07 2011


Quito – standing on the equator at Inti-Ñan 

I gasped in amazement at the best news I’d heard since eating my greasy breakfast; I’d magically lost over two pounds in weight by simply shifting my location.

A group of six of us were standing in the southern hemisphere in Quito, Ecuador. Several metres away and we’d be in the northern hemisphere.

“Move onto the yellow line,” Nataly, a guide at Inti-Ñan museum told us. We did so dutifully.
“You’re all 2.2 pounds lighter than a few seconds ago.”
Puzzled faces stared back at her waiting for some logical explanation.
“If you look down you’ll see that now you’re all standing on the equator line. Due to less gravitational pull here you weigh less.”

I beamed triumphantly. Weight reduction in South America is about as common as a subtle Latino man – it simply doesn’t exist. In a continent that consumes fried food on a daily basis, any amount of weight shiftage, whether momentary or not, deserves a grin.

Nataly smiled back, proud to show us that we were actually standing on latitude zero. “Follow me,” she said. I did. Maybe I’d lose another few pounds…

Just north of Quito in Ecuador runs the equator line

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The Quilotoa Loop

29 06 2011


The Quilotoa Loop – for quick facts about the route, scroll to the bottom of the page.

I skidded down the sand path, desperately grasping at tree roots to break my fall. To my left was a 200-metre drop down a rocky outcrop to Quilotoa’s vast crater lake.

“Nothing lives in there except algae, the alkaline water kills all life,” an American had told me the previous evening. His words resonated round my head now, drowned out only by my thumping heart and skidding feet. I lashed out again and caught a clump of grass; I was determined this lake wasn’t going to claim my life.

The evening sun reflects down on Lake Quilotoa

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Nariz del Diablo – A Journey Down the Devil’s Nose

24 06 2011


Nariz del Diablo – The most difficult train journey in the world

The sleepy town of Alausi was waking up to Sunday market madness. An elderly couple donned in Ecuadorian Andean attire was pulling a herd of reluctant sheep. The livestock had spotted an opportunity to stall their impending sale by munching away on a trail of vegetables, spilt from a vendor’s bag.

Behind them, low-pitch shouts bounced off the colonial buildings, the cream and white exteriors slowly being immersed in the morning light. The humming cacophony was gradually buzzing around the town but that was nothing compared to chaos erupting inside Alausi’s train station.

Nariz del Diablo, the Devil’s Nose, was billed as ‘the most difficult train journey in the world’ and if the inability to buy tickets was anything to go by, it definitely was the most difficult, near becoming the most impossible train journey I’d encountered.

An engine on display at the train station in Alausi

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A Whistlestop Tour of Guayaquil and Baños

19 06 2011


Guayaquil and Baños

Guayaquil's renovated Malecon 2000 overlooking the Guayas River

I stared at the myriad blue and white buses wheezing in and out of Guayaquil’s bus station and doubted I’d ever be able to figure out which one went to the centre of Ecuador’s largest city.

I sought out the information desk but expected no more than a grunt and a nod from the two men hidden behind their computer screens. What I didn’t realise was that in Ecuador people seem only too willing to help a lost tourist. Even, it seems, in a city that has the reputation of a ‘must skip’ destination.

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Hikes around Huaraz, Peru

12 06 2011

Huaraz is a great base to explore Peru’s Andes mountain range with hikes in the Cordillera Blanca and Cordillera Negra areas.

Looking uphill at the Rock Forest

Several hikes climb to near 5,000m and therefore rank as moderate to difficult. Huaraz itself sits at just over 3,000m.

If attempting the Santa Cruz trek, it’s advised to do at least one day hike before (two to three is better) to help you acclimatise. (For the Santa Cruz trek, click my last blog entry.)

Featured hikes:

* Lake 69
* Lake Churup
* The Rock Forest – Hatan Machay (personal favourite) – also a climber’s choice pick.

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Hiking the Santa Cruz Trek Solo

9 06 2011



For quick facts about hiking solo along the Santa Cruz trail, scroll to the bottom of the page.

Situated in Cordillera Blanca mountain range, the Santa Cruz trek offers solo hikers thrilling highs of 6,000m glaciers, cobalt blue lakes, spectacular valleys and if you time it right, hardly another soul in sight.

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Short Stories from Lima

23 05 2011

 Amusing and alarming stories from my time in Lima, Peru’s capital.

Latino lovers, a sculpture in Parque del Amor – Lover’s Park, Miraflores, Lima

 Bucketful of Love

My eyes were drawn to a wilting flower wedged into my door, the fourth one in as many days. The list of admirers was limited, but even worse it was rather disturbing.

There was the 40-plus man who lives on the floor above in our small apartment block. I’d unfortunately met him on New Year’s Eve when he placed a sloppy kiss on my cheek, his lips attaching themselves like an unwanted leech.

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